Is the Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant our only enemy now?


There is huge danger in the west’s rush to oversimplify the complex civil wars in the Middle East. I share the western revulsion at the way an American journalist was murdered by a representative of ISIL. Like others I am appalled to see reports of people killed or removed from their homes by ISIL fighters. We should not let these particularly evil acts blind us to the many murders and atrocities committed by a range of other groups and armies in this war torn part of the world as well, nor to the difficulty of achieving better government through another set of military battles.

There is no nice way to kill someone. To the dying there is no nice killer. People are just as dead in the Middle East if they have faced a bomb from Assad’s airforce, or a shell from the Iraqi democratic government’s army , or a bullet from one of the Libyan militia groups, or fire from¬†freedom fighters in various provinces¬† as those are who have suffered from the atrocities visited by IS forces.

We should not suppose that western military involvement will allow the surgical removal of ISIL fighters with no damage to anyone else. Sunni populations angered by the conduct of the Baghdad government have sometimes  given their support to ISIL forces as they embed in civilian areas. More moderate opposition groups have co-operated with ISIL in Syria to try to get rid of Assad.  We also need to ask what will replace ISIL  when the forces against it are successful , and how would we assist in the construction of stable government in place of ISIL  imposed rule?

Today many in the media and some armchair generals wish us to believe there is a single group of particularly evil insurgents called ISIL. If we just help other forces to defeat them all will be better ¬†and the Middle East can look forward to a more peaceful¬† future. Will it? Doesn’t it require huge political efforts from the governments of Iraq and Syria to win over their people and establish a new state politics which all the people can buy into? Or does it require new states with new borders reflecting the allegiances of the populations?

Yesterday came news that a¬†different militia has seized control of Tripoli airport. This grouping we read may well contain Islamists within it. They do not claim to be ISIL forces. Following western military intervention in Libya the dictator was killed. Instead of the country making good ¬†progress to a proper democracy, the Parliament cowers in part of the country and has little or no control over Tripoli, Benghazi and other important centres of population in its own lands. Huge damage is being done to the country’s infrastructure as warring bands fight over once important facilities which can no longer function properly. People are dying or suffering from the break down of law and order and the lack of civil power to control the streets and disarm the armed bands. The more the economy suffers, the more young men despair of having a decent job and a future by staying law abiding and peace loving. This should remind us how important the politics is after military intervention. Many Libyans do not see it as progress to be living in such a dysfunctional state.

In Syria some now think we should back Assad as he fights against his own people, carrying on with his bombing and shelling civilians. Others have wanted  to co-operate with a Syrian opposition to get rid of him which includes a range of Islamic extremist organisations as well as some more moderate opposition forces. Our indecision should give us pause for reflection. Maybe the west cannot settle the future of Syria? Maybe only Syrian politicians and the people living there can settle their future.

The list of banned terrorist organisations drawn up by the UK is long, and includes many different Islamic extremist movements in the Middle East. Are we now saying only one of these, ISIL, matters?  Ansar al Sunna, Asbat al Ansar and the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, for example, are on the UK banned list.  The Syrian opposition includes  Al Nusra, the Syrian Islamic Front, the Syrian Islam Liberation Front and the Islamic Front, as well as the Muslim Brotherhood  which has recently been thrown out of elected office in Egypt for its conduct. What do we think of these organisations today?

The modern Middle East is a far more complex place than the present analysis of ISIL against the rest would suggest. Law and order and the operation of state civil power has broken down in many parts of Syria, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere. The states respond by  firing  on their own citizens, which intensifies the civil wars and often makes things worse. These countries are subject to marauding bands, making a way of life out of terrorising people, robbing, looting and raising money for their own purposes. The group called IS  currently seem to be the most threatening  at this destructive and violent way of life, but they are by no means the only ones. People draw huge areas on maps claiming them as IS territory, but in practice IS only controls those places where it has enough loyal and co-ordinated fighters. Much of it is probably local gang warfare, with fluctuating control  by people with weapons.

I do not see how further western¬† military engagement can settle these war torn countries. It requires high political skills to design a system¬†of states for the Middle East that their peoples can accept, and to draw the loyalty of all the different groups into a fair system for governing them. If it is to be done on current borders, then it requires the governments of Iraq, Libya and Syria to behave in very different ways to the way they are doing, and to show they do have the political ability to disarm the warring factions, disband the gangs and give them all something more worthwhile to live for. It is easy to see how western power can help remove nasty men from office, but more difficult to see how western power can help secure good men –¬†let alone¬†women – ¬†to rule who can recreate sensible civil government. It also requires the main Shia and Sunni powers who are involved in these various civil wars to come to an understanding between themselves about their own spheres of influence.


  1. Lifelogic
    August 25, 2014

    I too do not see how further western military engagement can settle these war torn countries. Not how outsiders (or indeed anyone) can really judge how one power seeking group will turn out in the end, relative to another faction.

    The sort of organisation that is needed to gain power is not likely to be the same as one that can hold the position later. Organisations charge according to the circumstances that prevail, the pressures on them and the leaders in power.

    1. Richard1
      August 25, 2014

      What has happened to the Chilcott report, why don’t we hear about that any more? Why aren’t MPs making more of a fuss about the blocking of this publication, reportedly by an unelected official? Iraq was the greatest disaster in UK foreign policy since the 1930s. Whats the point of having elected representatives in Parliament if they don’t push for publication of this independent report so we can learn some lessons from this dreadful episode?

      1. Tad Davison
        August 25, 2014

        Wholesale redactions are making it virtually impossible for the Chilcot enquiry to reach any meaningful conclusion Richard. In one instance, the only thing on the document that wasn’t blacked out, was a question mark.

        So what is it they don’t want us to know? What facts are we the people, so emotionally or educationally ill-equipped to deal with?

        Elected politicians are our servants, but they act like our masters. They should ultimately be responsible to the people. It is fundamentally wrong for them not to be completely accountable to us for their actions. Whilst they can hide their ill-begotten deeds behind the veil of impervious secrecy, we will always be vulnerable to manipulation and corrupt practices.

        Sir Peter Tapsell made a call in the House of Commons not too long ago, for Blair to be brought to book and treated as a war criminal. It won’t happen, because his impeachment and subsequent trial would be stopped by his powerful friends across the water. So where do they get off and stop meddling in our domestic politics and proper judicial processes?


        1. Lifelogic
          August 25, 2014

          “So what is it they don‚Äôt want us to know?”

          Well we all clearly know it already. It was a war, clearly entered into on a blatant lie to parliament and voters and a predictably damaging, counter productive, dishonest war too.

          It would be nice to know why on earth they were so stupid and corrupt I suppose.

          The line “We had to go to war because of WMDs, but I did not actually bother to ask what sort of WMDs they had or whether they were just battlefield ones. It does not have much of a ring of truth. The very expression WMD is clearly chosen entirely to frighten & mislead the public.

        2. Richard1
          August 26, 2014

          Its very odd, there seems to be a conspiracy of silence on the Chilcott report. Even backbench MPs are fairly silent on it. How can MPs be content to debate foreign policy when we are denied access in this way to the story and lessons from the greatest foreign policy error?

        3. APL
          August 26, 2014

          Tad Davison: “Elected politicians are our servants, but they act like our masters.”

          Politicians Selected by the party are our masters, but they act make a pretence of being our servants.

          Fixed that.

  2. formula57
    August 25, 2014

    Very well said!

    The great problem for those outside the ME is of course can the oil keep flowing whilst solutions to local political problems are resolved by whatever means are resorted to by the participants if left to themselves?

    1. Anonymous
      August 25, 2014

      I disagree with Prof Redwood on this.

      “There is no nice way to kill someone.” Actually, in the west we have Dignitas – similarly we spare our pets suffering in their last days.

      Those who have suffered or dealt with blast and gunshot wounds know horror. We have experience of this on the British mainland.

      There is nothing quite so wicked and revolting as torture. Filming that torture. Showing that torture to the loved ones of those being tortured. Being held on ‘death row’ and put through a series of false ‘executions’ leading up to the real ‘execution’ is torture. Being sat before a camera while the declarations are made is torture.

      This strikes a particular terror into civilised populations – for the price of a digital camera and a blunt knife.

      We are going to have to get used to it, I’m afraid.

      It was all so unnecessary.

  3. Andyvan
    August 25, 2014

    The ongoing disaster across the Middle East is entirely the result of decades of western interference and war mongering. We started ruining the area after the First World War and have continued to support whatever bunch of criminal lunatics will go along with our whims at the time. As soon as they don’t do our bidding we encourage another group to start a war. If the locals actually get themselves together enough to elect their own leader he is soon eliminated by western agents or their proxies.
    Point the finger of blame at London, Paris and Washington. The long history of torture, death and ruination is due to our leaders. Forget blaming local extremists or religious nutters. The west, collectively, has created this continuing outrage to morality and reason with the arrogant certainty that only we can decide what is right and proper in the region.
    If you want to stop wars in the Middle East stop sending guns and missiles and tanks and black ops soldiers. Leave them alone.

    1. Denis Cooper
      August 25, 2014

      I notice that you don’t mention Berlin in your list of capitals responsible for the present situation, yet it was the Germans who persuaded the Ottomans to not only enter the First World War on their side but to proclaim it as being a jihad, a holy war. At the time that may have seemed to be an astute move on their part to weaken their enemies who had large numbers of Muslim troops in their service, now a century later it looks more like an act of total insanity.

      This was mentioned in a recent TV programme about how that war between the powers in Europe, started by the Germans under their arguably deranged Kaiser, dragged in people from all around the world; indeed thanks to the barbarity of the local German commander it killed large numbers of Africans in Africa, quite apart from those killed in Europe.

      I find it is also the subject of this recent article:

      “Germany’s grand First World War jihad experiment”

      1. zorro
        August 25, 2014

        Funnily enough, I went to Hughenden Manor today to see the WW2 exhibition (well worth a visit to see how cartographers worked secretly to complete ordnance survey type maps for Germany to help the bombers more accurately find their targets)….. Anyway, there was an interesting section in the Disraeli section on the Congress of Berlin in 1878, and how the European powers dealt with the Islamic power of the time (Ottoman Empire) and how that fed later into alliances and spheres of influence before WW1. I wonder if we can see some need for a Congress in the future to discuss how the Middle East should be allowed to develop rather than seeking to engage in continual destruction…..


  4. Mark B
    August 25, 2014

    The Middle East is both complex and never ending in its feuds and blood letting. If were writing either side of 100 years of today’s date, we would probably still be bearing witness to the same depravity that we see now.

    What ‘we’ have to do, is make sure that this level of depravity does not spread here. Oh wait ! It has !

    And how did this happen ? And who let it happen ? And what are those that we put our trust and faith in, going to do ?

    I am more concerned with the loss of civil liberties because of a small number of, ‘mostly imported’ minorities and their behaviour. I more concerned with our so called government, giving away powers to a foreign body, with out the FULL knowledge and consent of the people of the UK. I am more concerned that we seem to be condemning a country in the ME that is both free and democratic, but are strangely silent about its near and far neighbours that behave in a shocking manner to its own citizens. Lands where democracy and civil liberties are both scorned and laughed at. I am more concerned with what is going on in Ukraine and the fact that we are engaging in behaviour that is detrimental to both our economy and standing in the world, over a nation that is corrupt and is of no real economic or military value to us. ie Of no interest. I am more concerned over our failing energy policy – if indeed we have one ?

    And lastly. I am concerned with the actions and behaviour of our government over the last 4-5 years and, thet we will most certainly get the Government no one deserves in May 2015. Not that this one or any over the last 25 years could be said to be worst.

    1. Timaction
      August 25, 2014

      I agree entirely Mark. Successive legacy party Governments have been giving away our sovereignty and democracy by incremental stealth for over 40 years to an unelected foreign entity now known as the EU. They have practised deceit but do not have the decency to admit their lies or follies.
      They have allowed unrestricted mass migration that has brought some very strange practices and unlawful behaviours to these shores. Where is the independent public enquiry to look into this and potential solutions? How many more atrocities do we have to witness before they take decisive action?
      The fear of opposing political correctness has silenced most leading politicians, except one.

      1. Lifelogic
        August 25, 2014

        I agree. But slightly more than one I think, but perhaps less than 40.

  5. alan jutson,
    August 25, 2014

    Yes chaos and total and utter confusion.

    What you have here is a sort of multiculturalism out of control, where all factions want something different, and are prepared to fight to get what they want.

    We get involved and take sides at our peril.

    There is also a warning here for all so called democracies who allow vast numbers of people to enter their Country en-mass, who then want to change the so called rules, way of life, and have enough supporters to make efforts to do so.

    1. stred
      August 25, 2014

      There was a discussion on Sunday TV about the problem of Islamic radicalism, amongst others. Robert Winston and other wise folk were on. The BBC found a local Jehardi from London who said that the proposal to stop him going out to Jehadiland was unfair and that he would volunteer to be deported there. He also thought that the stories about the violence were exaggerated and it was really quite a pleasant regime.

      Why do HMG not grant his wish and all the others too? Then make sure they don’t come back. The last thing we need is inter tribal warfare in London.

    2. Lifelogic
      August 25, 2014

      An important warning indeed, but not one likely to be heard by LibLabCon all right on lefty “BBC think” organisations, quangos, most charities, Cameron and most state sector loons.

      Anyone who dares to make the warning will merely be labelled racist by them all in unison.

      Just as E Powell was by Heath. Cameron is quite clearly Heathite to his very core on all issues.

  6. Kevin
    August 25, 2014

    Great article John which raises many important points about the challenges of military / political involvement abroad.

    This is why, it seems to me that we should focus on an area we do have influence – on the Muslims living in our borders.

    Rather than just addressing “radicalism” I think we need more of a conversation about Islam’s role in all these problems and how the best solutions come from the many Muslims living here. We need those who are appalled by the atrocities to stand up and be heard and exert any influence they have. Why do we not see hundreds of thousands marching against the use of Islam as a rationale for barbarism? The religion as a whole needs to take responsibility and stop making excuses.

  7. Richard1
    August 25, 2014

    I agree with this. Our ministers, officials etc don’t really know who they should or shouldn’t be backing. One bogeyman is identified only for a worse one to rear his head. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that it would be much better – would have been much better – if the UK said we use military force only when we or our allies are directly threatened. We do not have the money, the power or the knowledge to act as a global policeman. It is also dangerous to go on acting as junior partner to the US in whatever they decide to do as President Obama seems exceptionally vacilating and indecisive. Bush might have been wrong but at least he was clear.

    Meanwhile let’s take up Nigel Farage’s excellent suggestion of extending the foreign Enlistment Act 1870 to cover all proscribed terrorist organizations in foreign countries such as IS, and strip the likes of jihadi John of their citizenship.

  8. Alan Wheatley
    August 25, 2014

    None of these issues are new issues. Looking back on the history of humanity there are examples of how governments rose and were swept away, how groups sort to impose their will on others who, not liking what was being imposed upon them, formed their own group to resist. Reading the histories it seems that the normal means of resolution was to fight: sometimes a winner emerged who was able to impose their form of order, sometimes the waring parties gave up, worn out by the struggle, retreating to what had become their own patch.

    Various approaches have been tried to bring order and stability, such as Empire and a League of Nations mandate, but I am not aware of any major sustainable success. Perhaps the best example of multi-national friendship and collaboration is the British Commonwealth, but this is between recognised and sustained nation states.

    There is no easy answer to Middle East conflicts. Perhaps there is NO answer.

    Where waring parties are driven by ideology based of a belief of supernatural phenomena then they are unlikely to be moved by dialogue to understand the others point of view. Any agreement for a truce will likely be a sham while they re-group and re-arm in preparation for doing the exact opposite of what they had said they will do. There are examples of this from history, such as the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact between the USSR and Germany, where both Stalin and Hitler knew they were simply making a short-term arrangement of mutual convenience while they prepared for the battle they knew was to come.

    So I, too, have no easy answers.

    Perhaps a prerequisite for peace is agreement within the Security Council of the UN, for if the major players on the World stage can not agree there is little hope for a “coalition of the willing” to be able to achieve anything worthwhile.

    1. Anonymous
      August 25, 2014

      “There is no easy answer to Middle East conflicts. Perhaps there is NO answer.”

      Prior to the invasion of Iraq at least it was contained.

  9. Margaret Brandreth-J
    August 25, 2014

    I simply cannot understand the Shia /Sunni divide. It can be likened to The Roman Catholic/ Protestant religion and the battle between the two religions, the violence phasing out years ago. All believe in one god , one prophet yet seek power over silly squabbles.
    Does it really matter whether AbuBakr was to follow or not ,to the Islam’s there is only one God Allah and only one prophet Muhammad. Is this fought for distinction worth all the deaths and turbulence.Surely the violent aggression must be due to something else?

    1. stred
      August 25, 2014

      Margaret. Tribalism or perceived tribalism+ stupidity.

      1. Lifelogic
        August 25, 2014

        Indeed as usual.

        That and irrational belief systems, often ingrained virtually from birth.

    2. Max Dunbar
      August 25, 2014

      Islam is an Abrahamic religion and therefore shares much in common with Christianity and the old Testament. In fact, it is inspired by it. Prior to Islam the various tribes of the Middle East worshipped different gods and idols.(words left out ed) The current wars in the ME are, in some respects, a reversion to the old pre-Islamic factionalism and not entirely the fault of the West although we like to grant ourselves that conceit.

    3. oldtimer
      August 25, 2014

      Belief in the “true faith” and death to, or condemnation of, apostates is not confined to Islam or Christianity or other religions. It is to be found in political movements too as our own history amply demonstrates. Currently it is to be found in the environmental movement as well with its condemnation of “deniers”.

      Such is human nature. It is one of the primary sources of human conflict to be ranked alongside the naked grab for power for its own sake.

      PS Checking the origin of the word apostate I read that it comes from the Greek word “apostates”, meaning “runaway slave”. I note that the Greeks were not permitted to runaway by the EU, but remain in slavery under the oversight of the troika which runs their affairs. We have been warned.

    4. Terry
      August 25, 2014

      Indeed.. And what sort of God would condone such barbaric behaviour?

    5. outsider
      August 25, 2014

      Remember Northern Ireland?

    6. Anonymous
      August 25, 2014

      Margaret – the Catholic/Protestant divide ?

      What church is the Protestant faith ? I think you’ll find there isn’t one. It is a term coined to describe a number of Christian churches which aren’t Catholic. ‘Protestant’ is a name which seems to reduce the diverse number of groups who disagree with Catholics.

      In a similar way ‘Palestinians’ has been coined which has turned the Israelis from David into Goliath in its struggles against the Arab nations.

      1. Anonymous
        August 25, 2014

        PS, Margaret (as you mention it) – Britain had freed itself of dogmatic religion for over 400 years.

        Now we have the mass influx (and conversions) of Islam and European Catholicism.

        What a heady brew !

  10. David Murfin
    August 25, 2014

    While not a modern history book, the Bible does show that the peoples of this region have been fighting each other for several thousand years. Why expect sensible peaceful government now?

  11. Brian Tomkinson
    August 25, 2014

    A dictatorship in one guise or another seems to be the only form of government in the Middle East with the exception of Israel. Many of us didn’t share the enthusiasm displayed by most of our politicians and the mass media over the so-called ‘Arab Spring’, fearing that it would end in the chaos and anarchy we now see in those countries. Having encouraged the overthrow of government we now see the consequences. The same is happening in Ukraine.
    Our government’s first priority is to the security of this country and its people. I don’t think enough has been done in that regard within these shores, never mind overseas, and I am not confident that it will be now.

  12. Gary
    August 25, 2014

    So, why are we there? Why aren’t we bombing Central Africa, where things are far more complicated and literally millions have and are dying ?

    Spare us the faux analysis, we are stealing oil and trying to gain a geopolitical foothold.

    1. libertarian
      August 25, 2014


      Has no one told you that there is just as much oil in Africa? As well as gold and diamonds. So I’m not sure your rationale stacks up

    2. zorro
      August 25, 2014

      Don’t forget AFRICOM and its tentacles within Africa….


  13. Douglas Carter
    August 25, 2014

    This encapsulates the fairly dismal failure of 2011’s series of Treasury-directed Defence cuts which was mis-identified as a Strategic Defence Review.

    It highlighted that future wars would be likely to be guerrilla wars in failed states and that we would fight alongside ‘our allies’.

    Guerilla wars – insurgencies – are almost invariably possessed of local\regional politico\religious natures and need the politico\religious application of the regional nations and powers to solve. Sending UK forces into that cauldron gets them killed for no good reason whilst a proper regional solution will inevitably be crafted, or concluded by exhaustion of the other possibilities. Such insurgencies having no political or specific international relevance to the UK must be disregarded. By definition it’s lives thrown away.

    ‘Our allies’ essentially means the USA and very occasionally some limited involvements from other nations. In spite of the obligations to which they signed up, and for perfectly good reasons of their own, Germany won’t touch international obligations with the proverbial barge-pole. Whilst German forces were deployed in the Balkans – up to the Kosovo involvement – the political timeframe seen there demonstrates they did so as a quid pro quo for the unwilling involvement of the integrations that other nations were conceding to the EU at that time. Those integrations having passed into fact, Germany remains aloof once more.

    France will do so solely for as long as it provides their Government with precisely the political or financial advantage they can extract from it. When that concludes, they will remove themselves from any obligation with essentially immediate effect. When I served in Lebanon 1983\84, French forces deployed were so under terms of reference which appeared wholly opaque. No other international forces deployed there would have referred to them as ‘helpful’. In Bosnia ten years later, even the small Jordanian contingent were more reliable and helpful than those forces deployed by Mitterand and Chirac. When Hollande came to office, French forces were almost immediately withdrawn leaving a gap to be filled. Only a fool would presume their support in a future difficult international dispute.

    If the UK is to have an international intervention force, it must be set at a level in which it is able to sustain its own presence and continuity of operations to ensure that weaknesses in planning presented by less-than-willing, or less-than-capable ‘Allies’ are compensated for. The Government deploying those forces must be able to highlight quite publically why it is British blood yet again underpinning that regional hypothetical security and why even when the UK and each and every other EU nation has signed up to some form of international joint approach, some significant countries are yet again absent from the ranks.

    I’m not proposing that the UK has such an international approach. In terms right now, we could justly advise ‘somebody else can have a go’ and we can also observe in recent decades that it’s extremely unlikely that UK forces will deploy with the requisite coherent political and logistical support, underpinned by clear aims, in any such operation. A bare look backwards twelve months demonstrates that there was no competent political planning in place for the approaching conflict proposed.

    Entirely without disrespect John – I know your previous history on these matters, I know you’re not a member of the Government and that you have obligations to loyalty but currently I still see a Government which presides over overseas imperatives that comprehensively contradict each other according to obligations made to administrative international bodies and friendly allies alike. A Chancellor of the Exchequer who aggressively wishes UK forces to contribute to a significant overseas capability, but who presides over processes which denude those same forces of the required tools.

    We can’t define our international priorities – and thereby identify friend and foe in a manner which dictates defence structures required – unless the core processes within Government are sufficiently coordinated to allow that identification. To date, I see no possibility of that. The pushme-pullyou is loose in Westminster. Nobody seems willing to put reins on it.

  14. Ex-expat Colin
    August 25, 2014

    1. but more difficult to see how western power can help secure good men – let alone women ‚Äď to rule who can recreate sensible civil government……

    2. It also requires the main Shia and Sunni powers who are involved in these various civil wars to come to an understanding.

    Item 1 is a persistent fail. Some Arab springs have serious stings and none of them have been successful. Some went very quiet…for a while. Leadership doesn’t seem to manage such countries even though they are largely empty. Could mean a break up in order to secure important areas.

    Item 2 is a persistent fail. For a global religion that should be benign, elements of it refuse to be. Seemingly medieval desires…I don’t think so. That’s a mask over a good deal of strange and well hidden believers.

    ISIL is as murderous as it is being a product of the above failures plus a core hate of the West. The hate festers within our own countries and is so easily fed from within. (words left out ed) A number of free speeches too far.

    All these Sharia type groups seem to have easy access to weapons and above all what appears to be good supply of matching ammo. Money does not buy everything but in this case its certainly can get the ammo. I know they captured stuff but that has to dry up at some point…firing straight up into the air helps?

    Once these groups embed into cities and towns we have a major problem identifying them in order to deal with them. Throttling off the weaponry is a good start and needs close guard/surveillance across borders. Borders… might be a bad subject for us. Head on attack don’t work unless massacre(s) is ignored.

    Davis and Johnson seem to be on the right track about our jihadi contingent. A prison in M. East won’t be all fun and internet, but I could not trust any jailer there. The Empty Quarter….not fun there either, martyrdom quickly available though. Don’t want them back here to avoid being a martyr!

  15. Martin
    August 25, 2014

    One could argue that all this mess is another unfortunate aftermath of World War One. Time to bring back the Ottoman Empire?

    1. stred
      August 26, 2014

      The Turks left the|synagogues alone when they visited Hungary. Only burned some churches

  16. ian wragg
    August 25, 2014

    Re your title John, a resounding “NO”. We have enemies closer to home, a lot of which you sit with. We have the enemies of legislators who continue with mass immigration.
    We have a Home Office which wants to give terrorists ASBO’s.
    We have enemies in Brussels which will destroy Britain with your friends collusion.
    The chickens are now coming home to roost after what most sane people in this green and once pleasant land predicted after you flooded the place with foreigners and told us we were multicultural.
    You are part of the problem John and it is sad that such a clever man continues to do the bidding of the Quisling Cameron and his henchman Clogg.

  17. ian wragg
    August 25, 2014

    Ineptocracy (in-ep-toc’-ra-cy) – a system of government where the least
    capable to lead are elected by the least capable of producing, and where
    the members of society least likely to sustain themselves or succeed, are
    rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a
    diminishing number of producers.

    I love this word and believe that it will become a recognized English word.
    Finally, a word to describe our current political situation.

    New word to describe our LibLabCON>

  18. acorn
    August 25, 2014

    Dave is sending a military envoy to Iraq‚Äôs autonomous Kurdistan Region, saying he is ‚Äústepping up efforts‚ÄĚ to help defeat the armies of the Islamic State (IS formerly ISIS or ISIL). Downing Street said that Lieutenant General Sir Simon Mayall was going to Kurdistan as the ‚ÄúGovernment Security Envoy.‚ÄĚ It said part of his task would be to help Kurdish and Iraqi efforts to form a ‚Äúunity‚ÄĚ government. (RUDAW). The Kurds don’t want a “unity” government; they want their own.

    Is Dave backing Sunni Muslim countries (Turkey, Kuwait, UAE, Jordan) will he recognize Kurdish independence? Shiite ruled countries (Iran, Iraq, Syria) are opposed to Kurdish independence. As far as I understand it Kurds are Sunnis, the Shiites don’t want them to be form their own State. Nor does the USA; doesn’t want Iraq broken up. The Kurds are fans of Israel and its establishment of its homeland and want to do the same. Israel was the first to buy the Kurd’s oil, as a sign of support for a Kurdish homeland.

    Anyway, this may all have changed by the week-end!

  19. Max Dunbar
    August 25, 2014

    Forget about the warring tribes in the ME. The people do not matter to us, only the oil and geostrategic issues of power politics. They will still be killing each other in a thousand years time.
    We now need to put pressure on politicians in our own country and remove them from power as soon as practicable (our own kind host not included of course). They have either promoted or condoned multiculturalism and are therefore not fit to hold office. We are sick of being lectured on the benefits of immigration and being forced to accept people into our country with whom we have nothing in common and who despise us for our weakness and stupidity.
    It would be best if all the main parties were swept away and replaced with a strong patriotic movement of decent uncorrupted citizens. Nothing less will save us now and it may already be too late.
    In Scotland we run the risk of ending up with a totalitarian Marxist administration committed to mass immigration and without doubt a very pro-Islamic stance. Train and underground stations are plastered with enormous posters running the full length of platforms that say one thing ‘Scotland Supports Equality’. It is not necessary to explain what that implies.
    etc ed

    Reply Scotland would still be a democracy where you could chose the government if it goes independent

    1. Max Dunbar
      August 26, 2014

      Reply to reply: Thank you for replying Dr Redwood. Scotland’s version of democracy is, as you know, a choice between socialists of one faction or another based on tribalism or degree of extremism; choice of a kind but not one that gives people of a centre-right opinion any meaningful choice or input whatsoever. Also, having been falsely arrested and imprisoned on trumped-up charges for a short period whilst campaigning for the Union 2 years ago made me aware of how fragile democracy is and also how it feels to have one’s freedom removed and be completely at the mercy of the authorities. That salutary experience convinced me that if Salmond wins ‘independence’ then I must leave the country as soon as possible.

  20. oldtimer
    August 25, 2014

    Thank you for that very well informed post.

    It is obvious that western military intervention, with boots on the ground, would merely add fuel to the fire. It is arguable that it would only serve to reinforce ISIL`s recruiting efforts. The great failure of the Iraq war, pointed out by many at the time – even before it started, was the failure to think through what should be done after the conflict and after the Saddam Hussein version of order was overthrown.

    If you do attempt to impose “democracy” through elections then you need to be prepared for the law of unintended consequences to make its presence felt. In Iraq the Maliki regime proved to be self serving, excluding Kurds and Sunnis from effective participation in the central government. That weakened the state not least by leaving space and opportunity for ISIL to make significant progress there.

    My own view is that resolution of these multiple issues will only come about through the efforts and willingness of the people and parties on the ground. The UK can use its diplomatic efforts to encourage this process but I have doubts about how influential this will be or even if it will be welcome. They will, eventually, produce forms of government that will function, more or less, for the people they control. Western hand wringing about the outcome will be a waste of time. What will matter is the restoration of law, order and the ability for their inhabitants to resume a norml life by trading with each other and the outside world unthreatened by bombs or bullets.

  21. Denis Cooper
    August 25, 2014

    Related to this topic, I see that David Davis has condemned Theresa May’s proposals as being too feeble, and correctly argued that British citizens who transfer their allegiance to ISIL are committing treason and after due process they should be deprived of their citizenship irrespective of whether they are natural born or naturalised British citizens and irrespective of whether they hold the citizenship of another state which is presently recognised by the UN:

    I agree with that, but there must be due process and it would be against the main stream of our tradition for any change to the law to be made it retroactive.

    I recall when a young Muslim was being tried for incitement to murder and he said in his defence that he hadn’t realised it was a crime to call for people to be murdered, and it’s possible that many of those Muslims who have gone to fight and slaughter on behalf of ISIL had no idea that by doing that they might be committing criminal offences under our law.

    That is what happens when for years the government choses to pander to a minority rather than insisting that they must strictly obey the law of the land.

    1. formula57
      August 25, 2014

      @ Denis Cooper – There is a clear choice on offer from IS: either conform or be destroyed. Accordingly, we should see IS wiped off the face of the earth – but you are of course quite right that that must be done in ways that do not infringe let alone deprive them of the human rights we typically accord to all. Still, if depriving IS operatives of their UK citizenship does not make them take stock and surrender, I do not know what will!

  22. Leslie Singleton
    August 25, 2014

    Dear John–If I get your drift, our response, if we are lucky and of course by leave of the human- rights-obsessed theoretical lobby, looks like being limited to some kind of ASBO, which I am sure the bad guys are going to be ever so deterred by (that’s when they are no laughing)–this is after all for treason and traitors, mind. Mistakes in the past means get it right in the future, not do nothing.

  23. Kenneth R Moore
    August 25, 2014

    Good article I’m reminded of the book ‘The Retreat of Reason – Political correctness and the corruption of public debate in modern Britain’ by Anthony Brown.
    Brown’s take on PC accurately explains why we have made such a complete mess of middle East policy – much of the blame lies with our feeble response and kowtowing to PC.

    Professor Redwood clearly defines the symptoms of the disease of Political correctness without naming the disease itself …presumably because that would in itself be political incorrect.

    Brown states ‘The aim of political correctness (or cultural Marxism) is to redistribute power from the powerful to the powerless. It automatically and unquestioningly supports those it deems victims, irrespective of whether they merit it, and opposes the powerful irrespective of whether they are malign or benign.

    ‘Political correctness is an ideology that classifies certain groups of people as victims in need of protection from criticism, and which makes believers feel that no dissent should be tolerated.

    As we have seen Mr Cameron is caught in a web of simplistic PC thinking that led him and others to believe that removing Assad was the right thing to do.
    Mr Assad is indeed and unpleasant character but this needs to be set in the context of the environment in which he operates. No doubt many of his opponents are easily as ‘nasty’ as him and if he was to show weakness he would probably be overthrown by a regime that is more brutal than his own. But because of the stranglehold of PC and absence of debate we nearly went into a war that would do nothing to tackle the problem it was aimed at.

    Our reason is under daily assault by Mr Cameron representing the political elite and the BBC insulting us with there PC institional beliefs :-

    Assad – bad/nasty
    Rebels – good/virtuous. Lets arm them.
    Militants – bad but fighting for a worthy cause so not too bad. Can’t call them murderers/terrorists.

    As Professor Redwood has shown, the world is a lot more complicated but the people making the big decisions have lost the ability to think with reason. They just ask themselves what is the PC position to take ?.
    Take the word militant. Derek Hatton was a ‘militant’ member of the Labour Party. Some miners were described as ‘militant’ for refusing to work. Suicide bombers are not militants. What’s wrong with the word ‘terrorist’ or’ murderer’ ? (for those who do commit such crimes ed)

    Brown writes’ PC has replaced reason with emotion, subordinating objective truth to subjective virtue.’.
    Think Of Blair’s and now Cameron’s willingness to go to war with the flimsiest of cases, of the willingness of those to accept them, and the overriding desire to be seen as virtuous by elevating emotional arguments over factual considerations.
    I don’t think our handling of foreign affairs will improve until we abandon PC thinking and it’s followers. The heir to Blair needs to go for a start – he has made the wrong call on Syria, now Libya is looking increasingly like a disaster zone.

    1. stred
      August 26, 2014

      My Syrian Christian contact, since disappeared thanks to the crackdown on renting to refugees, told me that Assad was not actually in charge. He just acts as a spokesman for his tribe and is a sort of PR person, a bit like we know who. The other people in Syria, who are not Alloalloites? were mainly pissed off about their tendency to require large bribes to get approvals and do business. The war is something most of the other tribes did not order.

  24. Leslie Singleton
    August 25, 2014

    So Dominic Grieve reckons that Boris’s suggestions are “draconian”. For how long has this fellow been, or rather was he, Attorney General? One might think that his comments were a joke but one gathers he is serious. Why was he ever appointed? I have no idea, but he sounds like another Cameron misjudgement. Is he striving to get appointed to some human-rights-loving EU Court?? Is he part of the reason we are in the trouble we are in with our pussyfooting laws??? In this extreme situation we should bring back the slightly more robust approaches to treason and traitors that we used to have–I have always liked Attainder myself.

  25. Excalibur
    August 25, 2014

    It is difficult not to agree with all you say, John. However, we should not see IS as purely a Middle Eastern problem. It is in the nature of human beings (young men in particular) that where absolute power and tyranny can prevail, it will. So we already have imitators in Nigeria declaring their own caliphate, together with the associated massed killings, summary executions, rape, kidnappings and defilement of women and the destruction totally of the existing order. This has now spread to North Africa. How long before some similarly-minded organisation decides similar actions could prevail in the United States ?. How long before someone decides to establish a caliphate in Bradford ? Your arguments are completely reasonable in the face of those who are utterly ruthless and unreasonable. That is why IS should be exorcised.

  26. Terry
    August 25, 2014

    There will be no end to the troubles until the ‘normal’ Muslims make a stand against these murdering fundamentalists. The States of Saudi Arabia, Oman and Iran are well-equipped fight against ISIS but do absolutely nothing. They are, as always, sitting on the fence and quite happy for the bad old West to do their dirty work for them. We have spend ¬£Trillions fighting their wars in the Middle East and we have nothing to show for it but hundreds of thousands of bodies which keep on piling up.

    Why aren’t the Western Leaders putting pressure on these oil and gas -rich States to take the responsibility when ultimately their respective countries will be the next Islamic State targets for takeover? WE’VE DONE ENOUGH, NOW IT’S THEIR TURN.

    1. julian
      August 25, 2014

      That’s a good point but we have to deal with fundamentalists here in the UK. The attitude is far too lackadaisical. We need to bring out treason and sedition laws and enforce them.

  27. NickW
    August 25, 2014

    A good and thoughtful post.
    There is no quick fix which will make everything better; what is needed is a long term sense of direction (50years), which concentrates on non intervention and the cessation of arms flow into the Region. The people and the Governments of the Region must be the ones who determine that direction; not the West.
    Given that the US Congress has an approval rating of around fourteen percent, one could argue that the USA has been eminently successful in introducing the American style of democracy into the Middle East.

    Regarding ISIL or IS, there are some rather interesting questions about the funding of that organisation which need to be in the public domain.

    Given the lack of publicity on the subject and the lack of any discussion on sanctions against individuals or countries, it is safe to assume that the funding is originating from American allies in the Region, against which the US chooses not to act.

    One can understand why US citizens place so little trust in their own Government.

  28. Tad Davison
    August 25, 2014

    War and killing is evil, no matter who starts it or who commits it. For evil to triumph, good men only need to nothing, and that means being apathetic to conflicts and their causes. Not taking the time to search out the facts and try to see the origins of any given conflict in an even-handed way, is to cheat ourselves of an informed opinion, and gives the evil doers a free hand to lie to us and cheat us.

    If we really care about what happens in the world, we will do the right thing and search out the facts. Unless we do, as sure as night follows day, the protagonists and those with a vested interest in promoting unrest will eventually involve us directly and the conflicts they create may even consume us. There’s certainly no guarantee that it won’t. Just because it hasn’t in the recent past, doesn’t mean that we are always going to win.

    Take the EU for instance. Our membership has been spun by domestic politicians and some parts of the UK media as advantageous to the UK. Only by learning the truth from the many independent outlets, have we been able to see that the opposite is true. The same applies to international affairs. Personally, I resent being lied to and it makes me very bitter to learn what evil has been perpetrated supposedly in my name.

    It’s everyone’s responsibility not to allow themselves to be blinded by this one-sided trash. They need to be pro-active and vociferous, not let things wash over them and thing of these things as someone else’s problem.

    Tad Davison


  29. BobE
    August 25, 2014

    If women were in charge there would be no wars just lots of countries not talking to each other.

  30. waramess
    August 25, 2014

    Intervention in the Middle East will do no good either in the short term or the long term and, as Andyvan quite rightly says “leave them alone”. Our politicians should concentrate their minds nearer to home rather than seek a crusade.

    Better to start thinking seriously and urgently about how we deal with those radicals wishing to return to the UK and thinking very seriously about securing our energy requirements with nations outside the Middle East.

    For this we will almost certainly need to get out of the EU and recognise that it will ultimately be every man for himself if the Middle East oil supply reduces significantly.

    Also we will need to keep close to oil producing allies outside the Middle East and to iron out differences amicably (I am thinking of Russia in particuar).

    The danger is that the conflict will get out of hand and even Saudi may find themselves embroiled in the nightmare.

  31. ian
    August 25, 2014

    The USA instigating war between Europe and Russa China and Japan China and India the whole of the middle east with Israel and war on their own people. Coming hear with CIA and FBI to start something hear soon. They want to stay number one in the world by hook or by crook. They are just going to supply the arms and money. While every ones at each other throats they will be paying back their debt on arms sale and such,just like in world war before and building robotic factory, technology for the future when peace comes they will be selling the cheap good around the world with the help of the bankers the elite and companies. Will the plan work, are you going to fall for it a third time.

  32. English Pensioner
    August 25, 2014

    Reading the media over the past few weeks or so, it is difficult not to reach the conclusion that our government hasn’t got the slightest idea what to do about the Middle East and is merely acting in response to events rather than trying to anticipate them.

    You sum up very well many of the problems (I’m sure there are far more than you list) and I would have hoped that, by now, the government would have got together all the various experts from the Civil Service, the Military, the Security Services, etc, and tried to come up with a detailed analysis of the situation and the possible scenarios that might result. That should include, not only what action, if any, to take in the Middle East, but also an analysis of the threat to this country from extremists resident here and any returning from abroad.

    With regards the situation here, all we seem to have is lots of knee-jerk proposals from various politicians, followed by others telling us we couldn’t possibly do that because it would infringe someones rights. Theresa May, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage have all come up with ideas in the last week or so, only for some one else to argue that we couldn’t possibly do that because it would infringe some law.

    Our record on dealing with terrorists hardly gives much confidence; as Theresa May writes in the Telegraph, “69 people have been arrested for offences relating to terrorism in Syria; so far, 12 have been charged and four have been successfully prosecuted”. Hardly an inspiring record! So far, a mere 23 people have had their passports withdrawn because it was suspected they might be heading for Syria; as Breitbart points out, this hardly compares favourably with the 1400 football supporters/hooligans who had their passports withdrawn to stop them travelling to Brazil. Clearly our police know more about football than terrorism!

    I take the view that we should do absolutely nothing in the Middle East unless it can be shown that our inaction would have a direct effect on our security in this country. Our interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya can hardly be called a roaring success. We should be concentrating all our effort in dealing with the situation at home, identifying and weeding out potential terrorists. Those responsible for radicalisation need to be identified and prosecuted. If we don’t have the laws to deal with the situation, Parliament should set about enacting some suitable legislation, ideally as a cross-party endeavour. The suggestion that there should be some form of ASBO for potential terrorists is laughable in the extreme “You are banned from being a suicide bomber, if you infringe this ban you will be jailed”! What’s happened to our treason laws? Don’t the laws about aiding and abetting or consorting with an enemy still apply to British citizens?

    Come on, its time that Parliament and our Government earned their living and came up with a plan to deal with the threat to this country instead of engaging in the usual “Ya-bo” politics which seems to be all that they can manage these days.

  33. The PrangWizard
    August 25, 2014

    There are indeed a lot of disputes and conflicts in the Middle East that we should not get involved in, but the argument to stay out of those does not mean we should stay out of what is a far more serious and international danger, that is ISIL or the IS. Local disputes and rivalries do not threaten our interests, the IS does. The leaders have spoken openly about their international aims, their hatred for our way of life, our beliefs and indeed our persons; they have declared that it their wish to kill as many of us a possible, there is no getting away from it. Listen to what they say, and watch what they do. And those who express horror and shock that someone ‘British’ could possibly have done brutal deeds are being extremely na√Įve, seeking to excuse them by claiming it must be the fault of the rest of us. Many of these fanatics are only British because the state has given them a passport. They do not and probably have never felt any loyalty to our cultural values. And did I read that the Home Secretary said it would be illegal to revoke their passports? What message does that give them and the rest of us?

    They can only be defeated if we stand up for our values and oppose and defeat theirs with whatever overwhelming force we can muster. And I mean here on our soil too as it is not impossible that we may need to use force of arms if some area of one of our towns or cities is declared a ‘no-go’ area to outsiders. Can anyone say that could not happen, because it has happened before, this time it could be significantly worse?

    1. Denis Cooper
      August 26, 2014

      “Many of these fanatics are only British because the state has given them a passport.”

      I doubt that there is enough information to say for certain what proportion are naturalised citizens as opposed to natural born citizens, but my guess would be that most of them were born and bred in this country.

  34. Bill
    August 25, 2014

    I am happy to line up with the majority of contributors in this thread. I agree with your analysis, John, and with the others who say that the whole thing is a mess, that the liberal elites in the BBC and the EU are nowhere near offering a solution, and that disputes in the Middle East have been endemic for a long time and cannot simply be pinned on Blair & co.

    The only think that I would like to add concerns the role of the United Nations which appears to function as a giant pressure group to which a huge amount of moral authority is given. My reading of the UN is not positive but, so far as I can see, our efforts within that arena may be more useful than direct engagement with the parties currently engaged in conflict on the ground.

    And, yes, if ISIS is a state, or becomes a state, then there cannot be anything illegal in stripping British jihadis of their citizenship and letting them transfer their allegiance to the regime for which they are fighting.

  35. Brian Tomkinson
    August 25, 2014

    Yet again, I’m obliged to ask why my comment has not been published.

  36. William Long
    August 26, 2014

    I hope someone on the Foreign Office read this post! Western Governments seem incapable of doing anything other than react to the latest horror without any discernible considered strategy. We do badly need a strategy in the Middle East as its troubles are not going away soon. The Sunni Shi’ite conflict has been there for a very long time: the main reason for Saladin’s success was that he managed to get them cooperating for a short time.
    For quite a time we had relative peace in the Middle East preserved by the strong man dictators we have been so keen to remove, and in particular the balance of power between Iraq and Iran, often with active hostilities between them. Having obliterated Iraq we now have a vacuum in the area which not surprisingly is being filled, by ISIL. Conventional wisdom is that ISIL must be destroyed as it is out to get all of us and clearly the latter point may be real. However is it not just worth considering that if ISIL were to succeed in setting up a strong independent state, however distastefully that might be ruled, it could have the effect of restoring some sort of stability to an area where things at the moment could hardly be worse?
    As for the danger that ISIL might pose to ourselves surely it is up to us to defend ourselves in whatever way is necessary including revoking citizenship and sending people home.

  37. Stephen O
    August 26, 2014

    No IS is not our only enemy and we should avoid participating in the wars of the Middle East. But IS are the ones who appear most likely at the momment to endanger lives in the UK in future.

    We should take steps to avoid fueling the fires by acting as a recruiting ground for IS and safeguard ourself against these ‘new IS citizens’ returning to our shores.

  38. Patryk
    August 26, 2014

    John, is the Middle East so confusing that an MP does not tell the difference between Libya and Lebanon?

    Reply I well know the difference between Libya and the Lebanon. I was talking both about ISIL and about Libya. There was a typo in the heading which I corrected.

    1. Patryk
      August 27, 2014

      Good man! Roger Helmer recently wrote “Iraq under Gadaffi” and as much as I enjoy UKIPpers showing incompetence I would prefer us Tories to avoid it. Best regards.

  39. Bazman
    August 26, 2014

    America and the west defend and uphold the non democratic countries governments that see woman as below the status of dogs and are the main funders of these wars. Funds which are used to buy western weapons.
    Lets think where this going right and wrong. It’s like the illegal drugs industry. As long as everyone gets their drugs and money nobody really cares how it all happens. The difference between the south American peasants and the London elite who use these cocaine or the down and outs across the country addicted to heroin are worlds away. Mixed in with this are large and small vested interest. Banking, being a benefactor and facilitator of the drug industry. Oh yes! Make no mistake the illegal drug industry could not exist on the scale it does without this help and various other vested interests. Even small time dealers who like thing as they are. Canadian mockumentary Trailer Park Boys: Don’t Legalize It laughably looks at this.
    The victims who are often the benefactors pay the price as do you and me. A global elite feathering their nest either from oil, drugs and many other things such a cheap labour tax evasion and general corruption.

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